Justice is Rest

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

The best law in the church’s canon is number 663 which states that religious are “to observe faithfully an annual period of sacred retreat.”  What a blessing that it is a required to take time out to rest the mind, body, and spirit. I just got back from my retreat and it was an amazing experience. Once again, I experienced God in the beauty of the retreat grounds, in the daily liturgy and scripture readings, and in the reflections suggested by my director.  Add to that great food and a comfortable bed and it was just what I needed to refuel for my ministry.

It got me thinking, however, about the idea of rest and relaxation and how so many people do not have that luxury. Even with the job market as robust as it is, low wage earners – around one-third of the work force-  earn less than $12 an hour and would have to work full time over 50 weeks per year to reach the poverty line for a family of three.   The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines a ‘working poor’ person as someone below the poverty line who spent at least half the year either working or looking for work.  There are around 7.6 million working poor primarily adults over 35.  If they cannot get full time work or if their income is not enough to make ends meet, they must work several jobs. The Labor Department also reported that around 7.6 million workers held multiple jobs just to make ends meet.

Many of these working poor are single parents, mostly women, who also have children or elderly parents to care for. Sadly, caregiving is not often thought of as work and not factored into the work equation.  Even if the children are in school, there is not enough time for mothers to work full time and care for their children. If they are earning only the national minimum wage which is $7.25, it is impossible to make enough income to support their families. The stress of living in this environment must be tremendous. And there is likely not much opportunity for rest or relaxation.

Time off for relaxation and vacation like retreats is important to our wellbeing. This has been known for ages. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer.” Lack of relaxation can cause anxiety, depression, digestive issues, headaches, or chest pain.  The ability to have some time for relaxation improves health and mood.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to have time each year to do a retreat. I’m even more grateful that I have time each week for the Sabbath and do not have the stress of supporting myself and my family. Do I really make the most of these opportunities?

For an interesting perspective on this issue, check out Americans Want to Believe Jobs Are the Solution to Poverty.  They’re Not.  https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/11/magazine/americans-jobs-poverty-homeless.html

Posted in News, Peace & Justice Blog

Why I Love Jesus’ Parables

Blog by Sister Amy McFrederick

A year ago in June, Cathy Hilkert OP and Jude Siciliano OP led the Dominican Sisters of Peace at the Akron, Ohio Motherhouse in a retreat “The Reign of God Is Like.” It centered on the parables. And I was their liturgist/musician—a blessing for me, since I could soak in the insights and wisdom shared.

Throughout the retreat, a surprise element hidden in Jesus’ Parables sometimes elicited from me: “I’ve never noticed that before, and I’ve read it hundreds of times!”  An example: one morning as a lead into our 20-minute centering prayer, this quote was read: “The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls…” Accustomed to hearing the kingdom of heaven compared to a treasure hidden in a field, or a pearl of great price—for which we want to be ready to sacrifice all to attain it—I was surprised to notice the kingdom of heaven being equated with the ‘merchant’ who was seeking fine pearls. The Kingdom of God (the merchant) is ever searching for pearls of great price—persons of faith being transformed by God’s love—whom God considers to be worth Jesus sacrificing all to attain them. How awesome!—to realize once again that we are so precious to God.

It’s a slight twist or an unexpected word or phrase in the parable that often leads me to an “AHA” moment of grace. That’s why I love Jesus’ Parables.

A week ago the Gospel for the day was Lk 10:25-37It was about a scholar of the law who stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus asked him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”

He said in reply, “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with your entire mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

Jesus replied to him, “You have answered correctly; do this and you will live.”

But because he wished to justify himself, he said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Then Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan, concluding with a question.

Which of these three, in your opinion, was neighbor to the robbers’ victim?”
He answered, “The one who treated him with mercy.”

Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

I’ve always read this passage expecting and thinking the message of Jesus to be your neighbor is the down and out, mistreated, robbed person left for dead in this passage—love them as ourselves, and treat them as the Good Samaritan did. That’s what I expected.

But here was the twist: Jesus’ answer to the question who is my neighbor was: the one who treated the victim with mercy. We become what we love. So was Jesus telling the scholar (and all of us) love the true neighbor, the merciful one, as you love yourself?  To love the merciful as much as we love ourselves, opens us to being transformed into the true neighbor—fashioned after God’s own heart. That seems to me not only wholly desirable, but also possible.

Another reason why I love Jesus’ Parables. How about you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

My Own Song to God

Magnificat
Maidung Nguyen OP

My soul is showered with the love of God,
My spirit is dancing in You, my Companion.
You are God, who has looked at me deeply,
Behold, from now on, my life is resting in You.

You have been with me always
Your Name is in my heart forever.
You have heard my deepest desires
leading me into my innermost thoughts.

My empty soul, you have filled with your abundant graces.
 My dried and anxious heart has been replaced with your peace
You have given me new eyes and inspired me with vision
missioning me to be the instrument of your fulfillment.

Your words, people, and your creation
have come to light my life and strengthen my faith.
Let your love and peace continue to nourish me,
And let me be your light and salt for the world. Amen.

I wrote this ‘magnificat’ and edited it several times during my discernment and formation process, and I still edit it occasionally. As a Dominican Sister of Peace, I realized that the call of religious life is God’s call for me to allow God’s love and peace to be magnified and glorified through every moment of my life.  It is a call to be loved unselfishly, to be peace, to share love, and to build peace no matter what. It sounds inspiring but living authentically with such a call is another story.  It is so because I want to control the outcomes of my life, which often leads me to fear.

God understands our human weakness.  “Do not be afraid” is the common phrase that God has sent out to affirm people whom God has called for God’s mission. This includes Mary, many others, you and me.

Blog by Sr. Mai Dung Nguyen

Mary sang her Magnificat to glorify God and to be Co-Savior, teaching us how to live in love and peace. I’ve been using my Magnificat to praise God as a Dominican Sister of Peace. How about you? What would help you move forward with God’s call? What would your ‘magnificat’ look like?

If you feel you are being called to a more intimate relationship with God and to bring God’s love and peace to the world, yet are unsure of how to live out this call, “do not be afraid” to contact us. We will help you and journey with you through your discernment process. Please consider attending our next Come and See retreat weekend in March 2019. Call us for more information.

Posted in God Calling?

Victory is Ours: a Reflection on Holy Hope

Blog by Sr. Janet Schlichting

Our small community hasn’t done the candle-lighting ritual before evening prayer for the past two months. In the candle’s place we have a small globe encircled by its stand, a ring of gold. We take the globe from its stand, and adjust its placement as we choose a country, a people, a region, where the Light of Christ seems dim and needful and we pray that the Light of the World will shine there with peace and healing and hope. It’s a way to keep us aware of Christ’s presence and promise in the midst of  the whirling winds of bad news and constant noise of things going bad, the winds and waves and fires and floods, our brothers and sisters imperiled and fleeing from war and terror, and the mounting anguish of hearts broken and lives ruined. It’s a way to bolster us in our Christian gift and task of bringing hope in Christ Jesus, the Light no darkness can vanquish.

There’s a Taize chant that I love, with words that foster my hope.

Goodness is stronger than evil, love is stronger than hate;             

Light is stronger than darkness, life is stronger that death;

Victory is ours, victory is ours, through him who loves us. (Repeat)

Victory is a bit martial sounding—a suggestion of a clash of armor heard in the distance– but it is a word that Christians use for the Paschal Mystery at work in history and eternity, with its great Feast celebrated at Easter.  As a religious metaphor, it always needs some careful trimming and more room to grow. And there is always the question, “Well, where is it, where can we see this victory?” because it wears a different face, God’s face.

Over recent weeks we have seen the ugly fissures scarring our American landscape and felt the fear that things may be falling apart. We will never know ourselves in the same way, never again sing “God Bless America” without taking a knee. We’re mystified at our own processes of self-destruction. We cannot explain ourselves to ourselves. Our nation and our world cry out for Truth, justice, and repentance.  Optimism is far too fragile a vehicle to sustain the transformation eternally offered us. Only hope in God’s presence and promises can carry us on that journey, which we can see is the Way of the Cross writ large, a hard path, and painful.

Our scholar brother Marie-Dominique Chenu once wrote, “You might say that when something new is beginning, when things shake and tumble, then (we) are most happy. For a special opportunity is being given to observe the Word of God at work in history. The “Nowness” of God is shaking up the world.”

God, the prime “mover and shaker” is at work in the rattling and rumbling of sin and death, stronger than all that threatens us. Victory is first and finally God’s work, and it seems for now that God is calling us to preach grace wherever and whenever it breaks through, and to “wait in joyful hope” as God-in-Christ gathers us all into the Light and the Peace surpassing all understanding.

Posted in Weekly Word

How Can you Stop Hunger?

What do you do when you feel pangs of hunger? The majority of those reading this article walk over the kitchen, open the refrigerator or cupboard and take out something delicious and nutritious to eat.  815 million – one out of nine – people do not have that luxury and are considered undernourished.  Unsurprisingly, the second Sustainable Goal is to end hunger by 2025.

Ending hunger includes achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture.  The good news is that over the past 20 years, the number of hungry people was reduced by half.  The bad news is because of conflict, drought and climate disasters the number of hungry people has increased.  In 2017, 151 million children under the age of five were under height for their age. 51 million suffered from wasting or low weight for their height. Will this continue to deteriorate due to climate change?

Blog by Sr. Barbara Kane, OP, Justice Promoter

In 2017, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace helped approximately 69.4 million people in 53 countries.  The United States is often the largest provider of food aid and in 2017, gave $3.6 billion for food. This seems like a lot of money; but, let’s put it in perspective. The United States Government has budgeted $590 billion for defense this year. Americans spent $60.59 billion on their pets in 2015.  The 2016 presidential campaign cost at least $5 billion.

As a percent of GDP, however, U.S. aid spending ranks near the bottom of all developed countries. It accounts for 0.17 percent of GDP, twentieth out of twenty-eight countries measured by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Sweden, Norway, Luxembourg, Denmark, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom all spend more than 0.7 percent of GDP on foreign aid, which is the target set by the United Nations.

It may be hard to believe but there are hungry people in the U.S. also. In fact, 41 million Americans struggle with hunger.  Unemployment, household assets, and demographics can make it difficult to get the nutritious food people need to thrive.  Government programs like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) the National School Lunch Program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) provide help.  These programs are under siege with this administration and in danger of being reduced.

So, next time you walk to the frig and grab a bite, remember those who are hungry, offer a quick prayer, and then call your senator and representative and urge them not to decrease food aid here or abroad.

Posted in Peace & Justice Blog